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The Magic Ballet Shoes

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SCENE 1

(Lights up on a small ballet studio in the 1960s. It is mid-February and sleeting outside. WALTER CALLAHAN enters through the house left door, carrying his briefcase. He looks hurried, and walks quickly up the steps to the stage. He looks around.)

WALTER: Hello? (Seeing that no one is there, he crosses over to stage right and stops when he notices LILY CALLAHAN, his nine-year-old daughter, in the middle of a plié sequence at the barre. He watches her until she finishes, and she turns around.)

LILY: Oh! You scared me, Daddy.

WALTER: That looked good, that move you were doing. What was that called?

LILY: Pliés.

WALTER: Ah.

LILY: That was just for warm-ups. That’s not the best I can do. (She goes back to the barre.)

WALTER: (Looks at his watch.) How late am I?

LILY: Only fifteen minutes. (She starts the pliés over.)

WALTER: I’m sorry honey. I had to go to a very important meeting. My boss kept us late talking about boring business things.

LILY: Mm-hmm.

WALTER: (Watches her for a few moments.) Well, get your stuff, we um, have to… make a trip somewhere. We need to be there before seven.(LILY doesn’t respond.) Lily…

LILY: (Stops dancing.) Can I stay for five more minutes, please please please?!

WALTER: No, Lily. We must be going—

LILY: But, Daddy, I need more practice before the recital!

WALTER: You can practice another time.

LILY: Daddy—

WALTER: (Stern.) Lily! No more nonsense. Get your things together.

LILY: (In desperation.) But Daddy, I have to show you my… uh… my magic ballet shoes!

WALTER: (Sighs.) Magic ballet shoes?








LILY: Yeah, yeah! When I wear my magic ballet shoes, I can do anything! Even the really really hard moves!

WALTER: (Humoring her.) Oh really?

LILY: Yup!

WALTER: Well let’s see one.

LILY: (Taken aback.) You want to see one?

WALTER: Yes, I do.

LILY: Oh… okay then… (She attempts a complicated ballet move, and falls over.) Well… sometimes they don’t work, especially when other people are watching. They’re very shy ballet shoes.

WALTER: I see. And how did these magic shoes come into your possession?

LILY: It’s a very, very long story. You might want to sit down.

WALTER: (Glances at his watch, sighs.) Fine. I guess we can spare a little time. But don’t make it too long. (He clumsily lowers himself onto the floor next to her.)

LILY: Okay. Well, originally my shoes came from Santa.

WALTER: Santa Claus?

LILY: Yes. And don’t interrupt.

WALTER: Sorry.

LILY: Like I was saying, my shoes were made in the North Pole by all the cute little elves. They were making them because a very famous ballerina needed a new pair of ballet shoes for Christmas.

WALTER: Which famous ballerina was it?

LILY: Daddy, stop interrupting! (She gives him a dirty look, and he smirks.) Anyway, a very famous and anonymous ballerina wore out her ballet shoes and needed new ones, so the elves were making some for her. But they weren’t very good ballet shoe makers. They made hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pairs, but they just couldn’t seem to get them right. The elves were starting to think that the ballerina would just have to go barefoot. But one day, the littlest elf in the workshop said, (She imitates his squeaky voice.) “I have an idea! Why don’t we use some of Santa’s magic dust that makes the reindeer fly?” So, the elves took some magic dust and sprinkled it on some regular old ballet shoes, and, wouldn’t you know it, the shoes became magical! And all the little elves celebrated. (She pauses and smiles.)

WALTER: And how did the shoes get to you?

LILY: Oh! I forgot that part! Well… you see… (She thinks fast.) The elves were so happy about the magic ballet shoes that they accidentally put them in the wrong box! And it just so happens that the box had my name on it. So Santa delivered it to me.

WALTER: I don’t remember you getting ballet shoes for Christmas.

LILY: Oh, I did. They were hidden. Inside the… chimney.

WALTER: I see. (Beat.) I do have one question. If you have these magic ballet shoes, shouldn’t you have become a famous ballerina by now?

LILY: Well I could have been but… I don’t want everyone to know I have magic shoes because someone might get jealous and want to steal them.

WALTER: That’s very true. (There is a long pause, during which LILY looks awkwardly at the floor.)

LILY: Daddy, do you think if I grow up to be a very famous ballerina… Do you think I would make a lot of money?

WALTER: I’m sure you would.

LILY: Enough to make Mommy better?
(There is another long pause, during which WALTER seems to be struggling for words.)

WALTER: Well… honey… there’s just some things that money can’t fix.

LILY: What does that mean?
WALTER: (Sighs deeply.) Your mother… what she has… doctors don’t really have the kind of medicines that can cure it. The only thing they can do is wait, and… try to get through to her.

LILY: Oh. (Beat.) But will they ever have medicine for it?

WALTER: I don’t know, Lily. I hope so.

LILY: (Nods sadly, and continues to look at the floor.) Daddy?

WALTER: Yes, sweetie?

LILY: Why is Mommy sick?

WALTER: I don’t know, honey.

LILY: Did she catch it from somewhere? Like… from germs?

WALTER: No. You can’t catch schizophrenia.

LILY: Is that what it’s called?

WALTER: Yes.

LILY: Oh. (Beat.) Do you think God gave it to her?

WALTER: (There is a pause, during which WALTER is mentally struggling.) Well… we can never really tell, can we?

LILY: Do you think God gave it to her because she was bad?

WALTER: No. Your mother is a very good person.

LILY: I know.

WALTER: Whatever the reason, it isn’t because she needs to be punished. God wouldn’t do that to us.

LILY: But bad things happen to good people all the time. My friend Julie’s puppy was run over by a car, and it never did anything bad to anybody. (Beat.)
Maybe God made Mommy sick because he wanted to punish us.

WALTER: Lily… stop talking like that. God doesn’t want to punish us.

LILY: But Julie said that when she goes to church they’re always saying—

WALTER: Lily! That’s enough.

LILY: (Hurt.) I’m sorry. (Beat.) Daddy, why does Mommy see things that aren’t there?

WALTER: Well… schizophrenia makes her brain sick. So sometimes it just plays tricks on her.

LILY: She yelled at me one time. I went into her bedroom to bring her a glass of water, and she thought I was a monster, so she yelled at me.

WALTER: Honey, she doesn’t really know what she’s doing sometimes. She didn’t yell at you on purpose.

LILY: It was really scary.

WALTER: I know. But she wasn’t yelling at you. The schizophrenia was yelling at you.

LILY: Is she ever going to get better, Daddy?

WALTER: (He sighs and takes a moment to collect his thoughts.) I need to talk to you about that, honey.

LILY: Okay… (She looks fearful.)

WALTER: Today, I made a very hard decision. I’ve been thinking about it for a long, long time, and your mother’s doctors told me that it would be the best thing to do.

LILY: What?

WALTER: Today I took your mother to live in a… hospital. A special kind of hospital for people whose brains are sick.

LILY: (She is numb for a few seconds, and then regains her senses, and is angry.) You took her to the loony bin?!

WALTER: What? No! Lily, where did you hear that?

LILY: (She springs to her feet.) It doesn’t matter! How could you do that to Mommy?

WALTER: Lily, Lily, calm down.

LILY: All my friends told me Mommy was crazy! They said you were going to lock her up in the loony-bin!

WALTER: (Shocked.) What?! Why didn’t you tell me?

LILY: They were right, they were right!

WALTER: No, Lily—

LILY: Everyone at school laughs at me! They laughed at me that day when Mommy came to pick me up. She was talking to herself!

WALTER: Honey—

LILY: She’s not crazy, Daddy! I know she’s not crazy. Please don't lock her up!

WALTER: I'm not locking her up! She’s in a hospital.

LILY: (She tears up, and her voice quivers, but she doesn’t cry.) Now I’ll never get to see her! You took her away, and I’ll never see her again!

WALTER: That’s not true. We can go see her anytime we want.

LILY: It’s not the same!

WALTER: Lily, listen to me… (He stands up and reaches for her, but she jerks away.)

LILY: I hate you! (She runs toward the ballet studio entrance, and WALTER runs after her. He catches her arm. She is in tears.) Let go of me! I want Mommy! I hate you!

WALTER: Lily, listen to me. Do you think Mommy’s going to get any better lying in bed all day? (LILY is crying.) Honey, I did the best thing that I could think to do. This is the only way for her to get the kind of help she needs. I promise you, the hospital will take very, very good care of her. The doctors said so themselves.

LILY: (She is trying to stifle her tears.) But I’ll never get to see her. She won’t even live with us anymore!

WALTER: She’s only half an hour away. At a place called Rockland State Hospital. We could go see her every day, if you want to. And she won’t live there forever. Just until she gets better. (LILY seems comforted by this.)

LILY: But…how long will it take?

WALTER: I don’t know, sweetheart. (There is another long pause.)

LILY: What if Mommy misses us?
She’ll be all alone.

WALTER: We’ll go see her every day, I promise. She won’t even have time to miss us before we’re back again.

LILY: (She relents.) Okay. (Beat.) I don’t really hate you, Daddy.

WALTER: (He holds out his arms, and she hugs him.) I know, sweetheart. I love you very much. I know this is going to be hard, but the doctors are going to do the best they can to make her better again.

LILY: I love you too, Daddy. (WALTER wipes the remaining tears from her cheeks.) Can we go see her right now?

WALTER: As soon as you're ready.

LILY: And can we bring her some flowers? And a get well card? And some chocolates?

WALTER: We’ll stop on the way there and get her whatever you want.

LILY: Okay! (She instantly brightens up and runs to the other side of the stage, where her bag and coat are lying on the floor beside the barre. She stops before she reaches them.) Wait… Do you want to see our dance for the recital? I’ve been working so hard on it.

WALTER: (Smiles.) Sure, honey.

LILY: Okay! (She crosses to center stage and gets in position to start her dance.) 5… 6… 5-6-7... (She stops.) Is Mommy going to be well again before my recital?

WALTER: I don’t know, Lily. It’s only two weeks away. That’s an awful short time.

LILY: Well, then… Why don’t I do my routine for Mommy when we get there?

WALTER: That’s a great idea. I’m sure she’d love to see it.

LILY: Okay!

WALTER: Get your things together. Your mother’s waiting.

(LILY picks up her coat from the floor, puts it on, and slings her bag over her shoulder. She takes WALTER’s hand and the two cross the stage, walk down the steps, and exit through the house left door. Blackout.)




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